After three games in four nights, including a back-to-back set over the weekend, the Dallas Stars held an optional skate this afternoon.
The Stars are coming off a big win in Chicago Sunday night. It was their first win on the second night of a back-to-back this season (1-4-1) and it came against one of the top teams in the league. The Stars have won two straight and three of their past four games.
They play their final game before the All-Star break on Tuesday, taking on the Boston Bruins at American Airlines Center.
“It’s a big win but put it behind us,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Sunday’s 6-3 win over the Blackhawks. “We’ve won two and we’ve got one more before the break. We really want to focus in on Boston and try to finish this off the right way before we go into the All-Star break. We’ve worked hard. We lost a tough game to Winnipeg (Thursday). We played probably our best game of the year, but we want to make sure we do the right things against Boston and put a couple points up.”
Two points Tuesday will help the Stars keep pace in the playoff race. The Stars are two points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they’ll be four back by the time they hit the ice against Boston tomorrow night. Los Angeles and Calgary, who are both two points ahead of the Stars, play each other tonight. The winner of that game will hold the final wild card spot in the West and be four points up on the Stars.
Injury notes: Eaves says he is ready to go
Among those practicing today was forward Patrick Eaves, who has been out since early December with an ankle injury. Eaves said he is ready to go, but Ruff wouldn’t say if he will use Eaves in Tuesday’s game against the Bruins.
“I feel good. I feel 100 percent. I am ready to go,” Eaves said. “I will make myself available tomorrow if need be. I feel very good on the ice with conditioning. I am ready to go if they need me.”
“He’s putting a lot of pressure on the coach,” Ruff said with a smile. “I was aware with conversations yesterday that he would be available to play. It something, obviously, we’ll look at. The team has won a couple games. It would be good to get him back, whether it is tomorrow or after the break. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Ruff said that forward Brett Ritchie, who has missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury, is expected to be ready right after the break. Ruff wasn’t sure about defenseman Trevor Daley, who also has missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury.
“Ritchie will be back right after the break,” Ruff said. “Daley is still a question mark.”
Ruff talks on Sunday’s first shift
Sunday’s first shift in Chicago turned out to be an adventure for the Stars. The Blackhawks pinned the Stars in their own end and put seven shots on goal before the game was three minutes old.
“I said I thought I had seen everything, but to start the game with some guys having a shift that was 2:48 long,” Ruff said. “If you look at the ice time of a couple of those guys that is 25 percent of their night’s play in one shift. It was tough.”
Defenseman Jason Demers and Jordie Benn were on the ice for the first 2:47 of the game, according to the NHL time on ice log. Ales Hemsky was out there for 2:39. Jason Spezza got off the ice at the 1:47 mark. Erik Cole escaped early, making it off 1:03 into the shift.
The Stars came out unscathed thanks to some big saves by Kari Lehtonen.
Monday practice lineup
Nine players too part in Monday’s optional practice.
Forwards: Antoine Roussel, Ryan Garbutt, Patrick Eaves, Travis Moen, Colton Sceviour, Curtis McKenzie
Defensemen: Jamie Oleksiak, David Schlemko
Goaltender: Anders Lindback
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge